Delays at airports continue to be expected today as airlines seek to resume normal schedules after around 500 flights were cancelled across Europe yesterday due to the Icelandic ash cloud.
Thousands of passengers were affected, mainly on flights to and from Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern Engand but no volcanic ash is currently predicted in UK airspace today (Wednesday), according to the National Air Traffic Service (NATS).
But the Met Office warned that ash emerging from the Grimsvotn volcano might return to affect much of the country on Friday. Forecasts for the end of the week indicate mainly low levels of ash affecting parts of UK and Europe, the Met Office said.
“This forecast does depend on the status of the volcano since the wind direction and strength will remain variable. How this affects flight routing decisions would be determined by Civil Aviation Authority and NATS together with the individual airlines.”
There is some disruption to flights today from the UK to Germany and Denmark as ash moves to the Continent, but the situation is forecast to improve later today. EasyJet has cancelled flights from Bristol to Hamburg, Stansted and Gatwick to Copenhagen today.
The UK’s emergency response committee Cobra met yesterday to discuss the knock-on effects of the ash cloud.
Transport secretary Philip Hammond then said that the ash plume had decreased in height and intensity, and south-westerly winds were predicted for the next two days which would move the cloud away from the UK.
British Airways, which expects flights to all areas including Scotland to operate normally today, conducted a “verification flight” last night using an Airbus A320 from Manchester over Scotland and Newcastle.
The aim was to produce data that should help the understanding of the limitations of the models being used to forecast ash dispersal. “The aircraft, and its flight performance, will then be subject to detailed inspection and analysis overnight by the airline’s engineers. All data will be made available to the CAA,” BA said.
This came after yesterday’s row between Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary and authorities over whether it was safe to fly yesterday.
“We regret the cancellation of today’s services between London and Scotland, and London and Newcastle,” BA said. “These cancellations were made entirely on the basis of the information given to us by the CAA and the Met Office.”
Airports hope to resume normal services but have warned of possible delays and passengers continue to be advised to check with their airline before travelling. Avis is to waiving the non-cancellation fee on all bookings during the period of travel disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud.
Car rental bookings that have been pre-paid and are due to be collected during the affected period will also be fully reimbursed, the company said. Rhinocarhire.com is also offering free cancellation and full refunds on bookings disrupted by the ash cloud.
Leading travel management company HRG said it was ready to extend operating hours across Europe so that it was available around the clock
Chief executive David Radcliffe said: “While we had hoped that the mass disruption caused by the Eyjafjallajokull eruption would be an exceptional occurrence, experience tells us that it pays to be prepared.
“Our focus is on our clients and their travellers to make sure we do everything we possibly can to mitigate inconvenience. We would like to offer reassurance at this stage that our plans are robust and will help us to meet any challenges posed by this latest eruption.
“We are hopeful that the impact of the ash cloud from the Grimsvotn volcano will not be as severe as last year, but we are standing by to do whatever it takes to look after our clients and their travellers, should concerns be realised.”
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